How to Summer: Catch Up on Books You Might Have Missed with These Recommendations from 27th Letter Books

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Image credit: Dorothy Hernandez/WDET

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on books that you may have overlooked. Here’s 27th Letter Book’s list of recommendations you may have initially missed, but that deserve your attention and will definitely enrich your summer reading.

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WDET’s “How to Summer” is a season-long series that offers insider tips and advice from social media and listeners on how to maximize the season. Didn’t get around to putting together your summer reading list? The four-person co-owner team at 27th Letter Books has you covered.


Former bookstore pop-up and Hatch Detroit winner 27th Letter Books recently opened its doors to its Southwest Detroit brick and mortar. The team’s mission is to highlight voices that tend to get overlooked by mainstream publishing.

We try to really focus on diverse authors, books in translation, small presses — voices that are normally minimalized and kept under the radar by publishing because publishing is such a big industry and often pushes other voices down to the bottom,” says Jazmine Cooper, 27th Letter Books’ general manager. “We want to help raise those voices up and help them to be seen because they’re already writing. They don’t need a voice, they already have one, it’s just the matter of being seen … And we’re here to help elevate those voices and give them the light that they deserve.”

We try to really focus on diverse authors, books in translation, small presses — voices that are normally minimalized and kept under the radar by publishing because publishing is such a big industry and often pushes other voices down to the bottom.” — Jazmine Cooper, General Manager, 27th Letter Books

In that spirit, Cooper along with her fellow co-owners Erin and Drew Pineda and Jake Spease put together this list of books you might have missed. 

Youth 

Dorothy Hernandez/WDET
Dorothy Hernandez/WDET

Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala” by Meenal Patel
Recommended by Erin

Patel’s picture book is the perfect accompaniment to travel as we ease back into seeing loved ones, vacationing and planning wanderlust trips. Priya’s grandmother helps her imagine India and understand that sharing her culture with others is a beautiful way to carry it forward. Whimsical illustrations with a sunny color palette complete this sweet story.

The Black Kids” by Christina Hammonds Reed 
Recommended by Jazmine

The Black Kids” is a young adult novel about choices, revelations, friendships and identity. It’s a great book about making decisions, choosing who you are and who you want to be, despite what everyone else says about you. It takes place after the Rodney King beating when the main character, Ashley, finds her identity has shifted from being one of the girls to being one of the black kids.

Nonfiction 

Dorothy Hernandez/WDET
Dorothy Hernandez/WDET

The Red Parts” by Maggie Nelson
Recommended by Erin

Just as Nelson finishes a poetry collection about her aunt’s short life, new information informs the decades-cold Michigan murder case and she attends the resulting trial to support her mother and bear witness. This book is an exquisite amalgamation of true crime, recollections on a troubled childhood and the laser-cut analysis Nelson is celebrated for — a wrenching achievement of her goal to have these topics “share a single spatial and temporal moment.” I seem to gravitate towards books on grief and tragedy only when the summer light can keep me company and counteract the thematic darkness. I hope you, too, may find balance and relevance with this read.

No One Cares About Crazy People” by Ron Powers
Recommended by Jake

No One Cares About Crazy People” is a fascinating and intimate look at the treatment of mental illness in America. It is both the story of Powers’ two sons who live with schizophrenia and serves as an introduction to the complexities of getting treatment, our troubled history of dealing with the mentally ill and the issues that continue to permeate our present day. Powerful and informative, “No One Cares About Crazy People” is essential to anyone interested in learning about how the treatment of mental illness affects the lives of millions of Americans.

The Hour of Land” by Terry Tempest Williams
Recommended by Drew

The Hour of Land” is a beautiful collection of essays that recount the author’s upbringing as the child of a National Park Service ranger. This “personal topography of America’s National Parks” takes readers on a tour from parks like Yellowstone to Acadia while interrogating our relationship with the natural world and fiercely advocating for environmental justice. With stunning black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the essays, this is the book to read if being in nature is on your summer agenda.

Fiction 

Dorothy Hernandez/WDET
Dorothy Hernandez/WDET

When the Whales Leave” by Yuri Rytkheu translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse
Recommended by Erin

This graceful translation of Rytkheu’s telling of the Chukchi (Indigenous peoples of arctic Russia) human creation story encapsulated my worries during the first few months of the pandemic and has only seemed to gain in relevance since. Great mother Nau lives many generations alongside her descendants, while her experience of mankind’s entwined history with their whale relations turns from honored knowledge to the ignored ramblings of the elderly. Addressing ageless concepts of give and take, this novella-length parable deftly asks: Have we reached the nadir of individuality and must we instead rely on connection? If we don’t, what beyond the whales will leave forever?

Virtuoso” by Yelena Moskovich
Recommended by Jake

Virtuoso” is a surreal exploration of human emotion through woven vignettes of several women’s lives. By embracing a unique structure, Moskovich creates a novel that invokes the best of playwriting through rich scenes where readers become audience members watching the action unfold, alternating between the past and present. In the end, the book is as much an experience of desire and violence as it is a story of the chaotic nature of human lives.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer” by Jamie Figueroa
Recommended by Jazmine

Figueroa’s book is a beautiful exploration of what it means to travel, to be part of a country yet so far away from home, the privileges of travel and the benefits that come from privilege. A sister and brother try to survive living in a country that is not theirs by performing for tourists. The sister is trying to accomplish one thing — save her brother from acting upon the grief from losing their mother. This novel has beautiful sentences and awakens a conversation about the privilege of going to a home that is not your own, by choice.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors” by Kawaii Strong Washburn
Recommended by Drew

Sharks in the Time of Saviors” overlays themes from native Hawaiian mythology atop a modern family that struggles to remain connected in the face of incomprehensible wonder and tragedy. Written in language as lush as the islands, this novel subverts the notion of superheroes while offering that acts of heroism and healing begin with the earth and with the strength of our familial bonds. Moments of magical realism will offer an escape for readers looking to get away.

Poetry 

Lucky Fish” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Recommended by Erin

Reading Nezhukumatathil’s poems feels like catching a lightning bug in your hands … you’ll wonder at their blinking magic long after you’ve let them go. Most in this collection weave in fascinating facts on flora and fauna as metaphors. In doing so, they feel poised for summer moments and memories: bright and earnest in a way that makes a home in both heart and head.

Even the Saints Audition” by Raych Jackson
Recommended by Jazmine

Raych Jackson is hilarious, smart and asks thoughtful questions. This is not a book of hymns, but interrogations that some readers may not be ready for. I love this book of poems because they are challenging and that’s the way that writing should be: challenging and thought-wrenching.


More How To Summer

3 Michigan Road Trips for Food Lovers

Add These Family-Friendly Southeast Michigan Destinations to Your 2021 Summer Bucket List

Explore Murals and Art in Eastern Market and the Dequindre Cut with Jason Hall

Five Things Jennifer Hamra is Looking Forward to in Detroit

Summer in Detroit: What We’re Looking Forward to This Season After Last Year

 

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Dorothy Hernandez, Digital Editor

Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played ‘80s music in the middle of the night.


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